Dear Stronach Prize Committee,
I am proud to announce that the United AIDS Project website has officially launched (see below for link). Since the site has launched, we have received hits from not only across the United States, but we have also reached audiences in the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, South Korea and Japan, to name a few. It is empowering to create a safe and open space where youth from the world over cannot only access and share knowledge, but to create it as well. This is only a sign of greater things to come.
I attended the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) October 29-31 at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco. One workshop I attended in particular, New Media Institute, stood out to me. I realized that online outreach requires continued persistence, as several representatives from organizations such as POZ Magazine, AIDS.gov, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) and Internet Sexuality Information Services, Inc. (ISIS-INC) clearly stressed. According to the workshop:
- Approximately 150 million Americans use the Internet to access medical information
- About 10 million Americans use their mobile phones for the same purpose
- A recent Disney poll found out that 1/3 of youth would give up radio, video games and going to the mall before they would give up their mobile phones
- And some questions that arose during online campaigns included: What does new technology take “off your plate” and what conversation is it driving?
A representative from ISIS-INC presented case studies, whose results resonated with my Project. First was Fresh Focus, an online contest that asked youth about their experiences with sexual education and how they would change it through user-submitted videos. ISIS-INC utilized DoGooder.tv, an online service that specializes on bringing multimedia capabilities to nonprofits. The representative’s first challenge was to publicize the contest, stressing the importance of enlisting the help of peers, bloggers, partner organizations and using a myriad of other methods of online communication. When it comes to running online campaigns, it is also about creating targeted, relevant campaigns that will appeal to youth while reflecting the nonprofit’s mission. But more importantly, it is about persistence, persistence and persistence. She was also daunted by the prospect of editing hundreds of videos for inappropriate content. But she then learned that (partially) letting go of user-generated content (UGC) was not a bad idea. All but one or two submissions were inappropriate (or irrelevant) for publishing. These are two important, and but often times understated, lessons that I can apply to the Project.
In the first of many upcoming trips, I have spent November 10-18 in Seattle, Washington. The night that I have arrived, I had a chance to attend a lecture at Seattle University titled “Across the Lines: Internalized Oppression, Identity and Resistance in the Age of Obama,” which was led by Mr. Andrew Olivette, who turns out to be an associate professor at San Francisco State University. He gave sobering statistics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington DC: 1 in 20 blacks a HIV-positive, with women comprising approximately 80% of cases and 16-24 year olds having the highest infection rates. He spoke of “standing up, showing up” and “naming and claiming,” when it comes to taking responsibility for our communities. Much more than clever catchphrases, these slogans speak about taking responsibility for our communities. In this case, those with the tools and resources should work to dispel the silence around HIV/AIDS and should reframe stigma and discrimination as something that affects the entire community. He told his own story of self-realization soon after he tested HIV-positive, which was inspiring and reinvigorating. I am hoping to reconnect with him in the Bay Area.
We have published two submissions to the Project, with several more exciting entries in the pipeline, including a spoken word piece, a young woman’s personal reflections on the mental and emotional wellbeing of queer women of color and an individual’s personal reasons for engaging in HIV/AIDS research. The first of the two published entries deals with a young man’s experiences with the debilitating effects of HIV/AIDS-related stigma. The second entry commemorates another young man’s one-year anniversary of living with HIV and how he continues to live his life in spite of the many obstacles it continues to pose. Both entries can be found on the website.
The entries we solicit do not necessarily have to come from HIV-positive youth, but rather, we are casting a wide net to include diverse perspectives on the overall sexual and mental health of young people. Our goal is to publish one to two entries a week.
And most recently, I interviewed with a reporter from Sing Tao, a Chinese daily newspaper in New York City, but with many offices across the United States. I talked in-depth about how HIV/AIDS affects the Asian Pacific American community in particular and about the Project’s overall mission of combating stigma and discrimination in communities of color. The article is slated to publish on December 1, World AIDS Day.
In a continued effort to outreach, network and create a safe space online for HIV-positive youth and their allies, here are some links to the Project’s expanding online presence:
As for future developments: (1) I have scheduled a trip to New York City January 19 to February 10, 2010 with a planned trip to Washington D.C. within that time frame that has yet to be finalized; (2) I will continue outreaching to community-based organizations, as well as soliciting stories, in the San Francisco Bay Area.